Dame Diana Rigg obituary: The Avengers and Game of Thrones star dies aged 82

Dame Diana Rigg, best known for her memorable performances in The Avengers, On Her Majersty’s Secret Service and Game of Thrones, has died at the age of 82.

Her daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, confirmed earlier today that Rigg had died of cancer, after being diagnosed in March.

“My Beloved Ma died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family. I will miss her beyond words.

She spent her last months joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession.”

Born in Doncaster in 1938, Rigg began her acting career in theatre and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959.

After appearing a number of TV-based productions of renowned plays, she soon became a household name overnight when she took on the role of British spy Emma Peel in the hit espionage series The Avengers. She appeared in 51 episodes of the show between 1965 and 1968 and received two Emmy nominations for her performance.

She soon made the transition to the big-screen with parts as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968) and The Assassination Bureau (1968).

This was soon followed by her lucrative role as Countess Teresa di Vicenzo in the James Bond flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). She became the first and only Bond girl to marry the secret agent although their happiness would be short-lived in the film’s tragic ending.

Having starred opposite Charlton Heston in an underwhelming adaptation of Julius Caesar (1970), Rigg then earned praise for her performance as Barbara alongside George C. Scott in the dark comedy The Hospital (1971). The role won her a sole Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

A number of television projects soon followed including her own sitcom series Diana (1973) as well as an Emmy-nominated role as Phillippa in ‘In this House of Brede (1975).

Into the 1980s, Rigg continued to crop up in various productions including a memorable turn as Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper (1981). She also featured in the likes of Hedda Gabler (1981), Witness for the Prosecution (1982), King Lear (1983), Bleak House (1985) and Snow White (1987).

In 1990, Rigg won a Best Actress BAFTA for her performance as Helena Vesey, an eccentric yet bitter woman who makes life complicated for those around her in the mini-series Mother Love (1989). She would later win an honorary BAFTA for her work on The Avengers in 2000.

She also won her sole Emmy in 1997 for her portrayal as the dastardly Mrs. Danvers in a television adaptation of Rebecca (1997). That was later followed by another nod for her role as Baroness Lehzen in Victoria & Albert (2001).

After popping up in the BAFTA-winning series Charles II: The Power & The Passion (2003), Rigg then produced a memorable guest appearance as herself in an episode of the hit sitcom Extras (2006).

Following a credit in The Painted Veil (2006), she then took an on-screen hiatus for several years before returning for a guest appearance in an episode of Doctor Who (2013). That same year then saw her tackle another landmark role as the scheming Olenna Tyrell in eighteen episodes of the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones (2013-17).

Olenna was a huge hit with critics and audiences especially when the character was responsible for poisoning the evil King Joffrey. For committing that act, her comeuppance would later come in Series 7 though it did lead to one of the most memorable showdowns in the show’s history.

Unsurprisingly, Rigg received four Emmy nominations for her guest role though sadly never won.

Towards the end of her life, she appeared in a mixture of films and series as notable characters including Sutton in You, Me and the Apocalypse (2015), Lady Neville in Breathe (2017), Veronica in Detectorists (2015-17) and as the Duchess of Buccleuch in nine episodes of Victoria (2017).

Additionally, she received four Tony Awards nominations before finally winning one in 1994 for her searing portrayal in Medea. She was also nodded for four Olivier Awards but never won.

In 1988, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) at the Queen’s New Years Honours for her services to drama. In June 1994, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to drama.

Dame Diana can currently be seen as Mrs. Pumphrey in two episodes of the All Creatures Great and Small reboot. Additionally, she is also set to appear on screen for the final time as Miss Collins in the Edgar Wright film Last Night in Soho and as Mother Dorothea in the BBC adaptation of Black Narcissus.

She is survived by her daughter and one grandchild.

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